Fanfiction: Ink in Water - Chapter 12 (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 12. Asking to be devoured

written by Bunny
consulting/editing: Le, LalaLoop, LigayaCroft
editing: kakashi

One of the earliest memories I have of my childhood is that of my Father, the Fox Emperor Bai Zhi, stumbling into our fox den one night, drunk as a bat, and annoying my Mother half to death. It’s also the first time I can recall ever hearing the words ‘God of War’ being uttered.

Or ever hearing the name, Moyuan.

I was 11,000 years old. He was 226,000.

My Father had been gone all day that day, arriving home only in the wee hours of the morning. All the ruckus he was causing had roused Third Brother and me from our sleep. We both crawled out of our chamber together and stood watching as my Mother helped my Father stumble in—pie-eyed, swaying, incessantly babbling nonsense.

My Mother’s face was quickly turning black. Peeking out from behind Third Brother’s legs, I waited for her to snap.

“This Old Fox! Why is it that every single year, on this day…I have to put up with you like this?!”

“My wife… My beauuu-ti-ful wife…” my Father slurred.

“Oh, you still remember that you have a wife?”

“Shhh… Don’t be like that… Come here…”


“Eh?! Honey… How come you’re so stiff today? Have you been doing your exercises again?”



“That’s not me.”

My lip twitched as I wondered why on earth my Father was hugging a giant stone pillar. Snapping his head around, his eyes became more cross-eyed with each passing second as he tried to find my Mother.

“W-Where are you? Come here now… don’t be mad, ah? You know I can’t just leave that guy all by himself. Not on this day. Not on the anniversary of her dea—”

“How long has it been?!” My Mother sighed and grabbed his face with her hands, guiding him to look at her. “The Demon War was 61,000 years ago… Why does this still need to become an ordeal every year?”

“How can you say that?” My Father’s expression dropped, looking somewhat upset. “You don’t know how that guy feels… If I had to watch you die before my very eyes, I would be drinking myself into a stupor every night so I could join you quicker! Moyuan only does it once a year!”

Seeing my Mother’s glare, my Father tried to salvage the situation. “But really… If it was me, I wouldn’t be able to live without you… Fūrén~ [1]”

Unimpressed, she rolled her eyes at him, although the corners of her lips also unmistakably curved upward. “Don’t think you can just get out of this mess by throwing a few sweet words around!”

I couldn’t tell if she was happy or mad. Only later, would I come to learn that this expression is what they refer to as ‘saying no and meaning yes’.

After nearly tripping over each other’s feet at least a dozen times, my Mother finally managed to get my Father to a dais in the middle of the room. He plopped down, laid flat on his back and started waving his arms in the air, earning himself a few more glares from her.

“Moyuan ah… My dear, dear friend… maybe if you did drink yourself silly every night… you would feel a little better…”

Who was he muttering to now? It was a man; I could guess that much. Did I know him? I was itching to hear more and wanted to sneak closer, but Third Brother’s hands came to tug my shoulders back.

“What kind of nonsense are you spouting off now?” My Mother sat down next to my Father and shook her head. “He has a whole mountain full of disciples. He can’t afford to get drunk every night!”

“Pffffft!” Specks of saliva were flying out of my Father’s mouth as he sputtered. “Yes, yes… Master of Kunlun Mountain… God of War… Protector of the realms... So many titles, but what are they for? That fool, he’s always just been… a sad kid.”

“Bai Zhi! You shouldn’t say these things… Even if you two are good friends, he’s still Father Immortal’s only son, you can’t just—”

“That’s right! I almost forgot about that Old Fart! That’s why Moyuan was always moping around back then… Hell, I’d be a sad kiddo too if I had a Father like that!”

“Bai Zhi!!!”

“Tch. It’s true… Why else would a seemingly normal kid turn out so weird? What kind of person walks around with no emotions like that?”

“A person who was bred to fight Heaven’s wars… to protect all of existence.”

My Father yawned, wiped his face, and sighed. “Aish! Too much! Too much! All responsibility… No fun…”

“Did you happen to forget that you also have responsibilities of your own?”

“But I have you to help me… Sweetheart…” My Father suddenly grabbed my Mother by the waist with a weird look on his face, like he wanted to eat her.

“That’s it—Sit up!” my Mother barked. I thought my Father might be in some real trouble. With a brisk wave of her hand, a tray containing a bowl of soup materialized in the air before them. “We are going to sober you up, whether you like it or not, otherwise you’re sleeping out here tonight!”

Never had I seen anyone sit up so fast. My Father’s eyes grew wide as he leaned into my Mother and opened his mouth like a baby bird, waiting to be spoon fed. I had always known he was thick skinned, but this was leveling up.

“Heh, heh…” He took a spoonful of soup and eyed my Mother affectionately. “I bet… if Moyuan had one of you around… he would never be sad…”

“Are you trying to give me away now?”

“YOU! How can you think that of me?!” My Father’s offended drunk face was terribly amusing. Third Brother and I were going blue in the face trying to hold in our snorts.

My Mother could not contain her laugh. “Well, you know…”


“You do have a daughter… who might someday need a—”

Having just sipped a mouthful of soup, my Father’s lips suddenly became a spurting fountain.


My eyes bugged out. I had an inkling at that point that they were talking about me, but my infantile brain didn’t know what any of it was about. It was my Father’s furious face, drenched in soup, that was mostly distracting me.

“Oh, stop it! I’m just teasing.” My Mother took out a handkerchief and started blotting his chin. “But in all honesty, I can’t think of any other man in all the realms I’d rather give my daughter to. It’s too bad the age gap is so wide…”

“NO! Definitely not that scoundrel! That devil! Remind me never to let him come over here again!”

“And why is that?”

“The other night… that guy was over here and Xiao Wu came out of her chamber crying for me—ME, her Father! But somehow, HE got her to go over to him instead! All on her own! Can you believe it?! She even slept in his lap! Why I… I… oughta…”

My Mother snorts loudly. “Aren’t you just jealous? When are you going to stop smothering our daughter with your obsessive behavior?”

“But I had to wait five rounds for her to come out of you!”

My Mother ignored him and just smiled to herself. “My good daughter… smart, like her Mother… picked the best one all on her own.”

I had no clue what she was praising me for, but hearing my Mother’s praise, I was happy. I grinned and hugged Third Brother’s leg. Looking up, I saw his scowling face staring off into the distance and wondered why both my Father and my brother were making such unhappy faces?

“Best one?!” My Father scoffed. “Let’s not forget that the last woman who loved him… burned to death.”

My Mother shot him a look. “Don’t be insensitive. The events of the Demon War… you of all people know best what transpired. Don’t you think Moyuan blames himself enough for what happened to Shao Wan?”

“Yes, of course I know... He’s turned his heart into a block of ice because of what happened! But if that ice ever melts, it won’t have anything to do with any daughter of mine. Lest he do something stupid again, like sacrifice her for the good of the realms!”

“Darling, if you’re actually that concerned about the possibility of our daughter being lured in by a man who’s her Father’s age, who’s been celibate for most of his life, then why don’t you just send her up to Kunlun Mountain when she’s a bit older and have him take her in as his disciple? Knowing Moyuan… he would never break such a sacred bond if it were ever put in place.”

“Hmmm. You’re right… That’s not a bad idea... To have him as her teacher would be a blessing. Fūrén… You are so smart!” My Father started to cover my Mother’s face with kisses. It made me queasy so I looked away.

Oblivious to the fact that my fate had just been sealed right then and there, I simply stared blankly into space and wondered what in the world a God of War even was…

My hands reached up to Third Brother’s and tugged on his sleeve.

“Sānge [2]…”

“Hm?” Third Brother’s warm hand came down to rub my head.

“Wha… what is a God of Waw?” I whispered.

Third Brother thought about it for a while, smirked, then bent down to whisper in my ear. “A God of War is… a ferocious beast… with four heads and six arms, who likes to prey on little immortals, and especially likes to eat…. little white foxes.”

At those last three words, his hands jumped out to seize both my arms, making me jolt. I nearly wet myself.

“Uu… Uuuu…. Uuuuwaaaaaahhhhh!”

I started bawling my head off, and upon hearing my cries, both our parents make their way over.

“Xiao Wu!!!” I looked through my tears to see my Father’s distorted face. “What’s wrong?! Who did this?! Your stupid brother?”

“Brat.” My Father whacked Third Brother across the head, “You dare to bully my child?”

“I’m your child too, you know,” Third Brother said, unflinching.

I plopped my butt on the ground and continued crying until my cheeks felt all swollen. My Father was rubbing them so hard with his sleeve, the swelling only got worse.

“You’re hurting her.” Third Brother snatched me right out of my Father’s grip and gently dried my tears himself. He then covered my nose and pinched it.


I did as told and soaked his sleeve with a large goop of my snot.

About to blow a second time, I was yanked back by my Father. “Xiao Wu, we can’t trust this kid… Come to Dad instead.”

“What ‘kid’?” Third Brother shook off his wet sleeve.

I stared at them while they bickered.

Growing up, I always had a hard time telling who was the Father and who was the child. My Third Brother, Bai Xun, the black sheep of our family, only 18,000 years my senior, always felt much older. Wiser than my Eldest Brother, more self-possessed than my Father… his only problem were his rare spells of anger which, over the years, have been known to devastate the realms a handful of times. Having clung to him for most of my childhood, I’m glad to say I’ve never had to be on the receiving end of it.

After standing around for a while, I had had enough of smelling my Father’s bad breath, which stank of alcohol. Wiggling my way out of his grasp, I ran over to my Mother.

Bending down to hug me, she asked, “Qian Qian, what were you crying about just now?”

“Mama… Sānge said…” I hiccuped as my tears dried, “G-God of Waw is a beast that eats wittle foxes! I dun wanna go see him…”

She smiled and combed my hair with her fingers. “Your brother’s teasing you again… he’s jealous, just like your Father… Actually, the God of War is—”

“That’s right, Xiao Wu!” My Father rushed over in a huff. “That beast will eat you right up! Don’t you forget it… If you ever encounter him, or heaven forbid, if you ever… end up in his lap again… you remember what Daddy told you today—RUN AWAY!”


My Father’s voice rings in my ear.

I shudder.

What kind of face would he be making right now if he saw us?

Sitting here in utter darkness, piled under a mountain of fur, our eight limbs have knotted into one and I can no longer tell what belongs to me and what belongs to Moyuan.

We are not sleeping. Not talking. Only exchanging the sounds of inhales and exhales against the stale, cold air. But my lips do not feel the cold at all. They are still stinging from the heat of his skin, from the kisses I stole moments ago.

I find it funny how a single minute smothered in silence can pass like hours.

The wind and snow screeches on outside like the cries of the dead, though I can hardly hear it. It is the stillness between these icy walls, and the quietude between our two bodies that is so deafening, I feel like I will soon lose my mind.



I haven’t a clue what to say to him. Since when have I not known what to say?

“What is it, Little Seventeenth?” His whisper is so soft I can barely make out the words. As soft as the touch of his hand rubbing my back, or the way my skin trembles beneath it.

“I’m… cold.”

He hugs me tighter. “I know.”

I look up at him. His features are dim in this darkness, but his eyes—they emerge like two specks of light that cannot be drowned out, reflecting bits of blue from the spiraling ice around us.



“Do you think we’ll die here like this?”

I feel the stiff, frost-covered hairs pulled away from my eyes as his hand comes to gather the longer strands over my shoulder.

“Are you afraid?”

“Yes.” I bob my head. “But…”

My own hand mimics his as it wanders up to pick away the chunks of frost that have accumulated on his brows.

Will he think I’m strange if I tell him that I’m happy? Being here, with him.

“What are you thinking so hard about?” he asks. I realize my forehead is scrunching up as I stare at him.

“Shifu… if I’m happy in a dream, do you think it counts?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean… the happiness…” I hesitate. The meaning of my words suddenly feel lost to me.

“…Never mind.” My head nuzzles back against his shoulder. What was I trying to say just now?

“You mean, is it real?”

I nod, no longer finding it much of a surprise—that he knows my own thoughts even better than I do.

“If something makes you happy, why should you discredit it?” he asks.

“But what if that happiness… makes you miserable one day?”

I wait a few beats, but he doesn’t respond. I wonder if I’ve managed to annoy him with all of these convoluted questions that keep flying out of me. Questions I can’t even find a reason for.

His fingers untangle from my hair and he brings them up to my cheek. The way one touches something so delicate, fearing it might break. Wanting to make contact, but unwilling to commit to touching me.

“I suppose you would have to ask yourself if the temporary gain is worth the pain that follows.”

There is a certain sadness in his voice when he speaks these words.

Have I ever known what makes this person happy? Or what makes him sad?

Didn’t I used to think that my Master, the God of War, was devoid of emotion? That he had reached a level of enlightenment which prevented him from ever swaying in either spectrum of happiness or sorrow. But it’s not true, is it?

When I watch him, sometimes, I think I can catch it. A glimmer of something that appears so briefly, if I blink, I will miss it. In the way his eyes momentarily lower. The way his breath glitches before he sighs. The way his hands roll into fists and hide beneath his sleeves.

I don’t know what word I should use to call it. Is it pain? Torment? Grief? That threads interchangeably through the strands of his being. He wears it so comfortably, like another layer of skin covering his body. But, undoubtedly, there must be days when that benign skin boils and blisters.


He gives me a waiting look, knowing another question is coming.

“What are you sad about?”


I nod.

He chuckles. “Seventeenth, what’s bringing on these questions?”

I don’t know.

“Have you ever loved somebody?”

Why or how those words just left my mouth is also lost to me. As soon as the thought manifested, it has slipped through the filters of my brain. And I instantly regret it.

He answers, “Yes.”

Of course, he has.

“I love you, as well as all of your seniors.”

“Th-That’s not what I mean…” I stammer.

My throat constricts.

What will he think of me asking such a thing? That I’m just curious? That I care about the intimate details of his life? Or that I…

I am hoping that he will just ignore me, but he doesn’t.

“Once before,” he says.

I feel my heart drop to my stomach.

Don’t I already know? Haven’t I always heard about it—about her—in fragments? Fragments I’ve never thought to commit to memory, because it was of no concern to me?

“What was she like?”

If I had needle and thread, I would suture up these lips of mine this instant.

“She was a lot like you.”

No. I don’t want to hear this.


“Shifu!” I cut him off. “I-I want to go to sleep now.”

In a fluster, I pry myself out from his arms, thinking I can brave the cold air. And they release me, allowing me to go. The moment our bodies are apart, my teeth start to chatter and it hurts just to breathe. Still, I clumsily crawl away from him.

“Little Seventeenth…”


I don’t get very far.

“Do you wish to freeze to death?”

Like ropes, his arms come to collect me, and I am right back where I started. I feel his chin sliding onto my shoulder from behind as he adjusts the fur around us, swaddling me up again, wrapping himself up along with me. But I’m squirming like a fly in a honey trap.

“Didn’t you say you wanted to sleep? Is this not comfortable enough for you?”

“T-That’s not it!”

“Alright then. Go to sleep.”

“I can’t!”

“And why is that?”

“Be… Because… you… you…”

“I what?”

“Make my heart pound so hard I think I might faint!” I don’t say that. Surely, I cannot say that out loud.

I’m very annoyed all of sudden and I don’t even know why.

Without responding to his question, I try and settle myself in this position, but I feel terribly awkward. My body remains tense as I try not to mold my back to his rigid chest, as though not wanting to give in to him. Because he is always like this: relaxed, indifferent.

And it’s not fair.

I exhale. It feels I’ve been holding in my breath for hours.

“Be good. Try to get some sleep,” he says, as his arms fold over me.

Contrary to what I believe, it doesn’t take long for my defenses to falter. I think my nerves have tired me out.

In time, I start to drift off, but never quite getting to a deep sleep. Simply stuck in a blurred-out middle ground where I find myself crossing the bridge of consciousness over and over again.

When my body has softened completely, his arms gently rotate me around. I don’t rouse enough to react, but like a learned movement, ingrained in my muscles, my head naturally finds its way to his shoulder.

It’s so comfortable here. Why did I ever want to leave this body that feels like it’s been made just to shelter me?

As I nestle in further, I feel a warm sensation land on my forehead. Maybe his lips. I can’t be sure. I don’t dare let myself believe it.

His breath is lingering in the same space, and I hear him murmur, “I’m sorry.”

Two words I cannot begin to decipher.

What for?

Just what is he sorry for?


When I finally wake, it is no longer in darkness. And I am no longer cold.

A gold light swarms my vision, making me think I am bathing in sunlight. But this is not the sun. We are still surrounded by ice.

My sluggish eyes scan upward to find the underside of Moyuan’s face. My head is resting on his shoulder in the same exact position it was in when I drifted off.

“You’re awake?” he asks.

His lips are moving, but his eyes remain closed.

I don’t answer him. I am transfixed on this light that is currently enshrouding his body and mine. It is coming from him—rising out of him, like the wisps of vapor emitting from his skin, and forming a bubble around us.

It takes a moment for me to realize what I’m looking at, and yet another moment to process it.

This is his energy. It is unmistakable. Unless my eyes are playing tricks on me.

I rub them, and look again.

I don’t understand… Haven’t I been told that his powers don’t work here?

When I try to sit up, his hand pushes me back down.


“Stay still.” His voice is stern, like a warning.

I see his strained expression, his entire face dotted with sweat, lips pressed together, eyebrows knitted, and I realize immediately what he’s doing. What he’s trying to tell me.

He’s channeling his qi. I know full well the consequences of disrupting him in this fragile meditative state, so my movements quell instantly. But the questions are piling up inside. How is he able to do this? Why does he suddenly have his powers back?

Could it be… that this is really my Master? Has it been him all along?

My head starts to throb the moment I think about it. I’ve been avoiding the question, each time it sneaks into my mind. 

But I want it to be him. I want it so badly, my heart is swollen with hope.

My eyes wander out and my attention is caught by the sight of our surroundings. Everything in this cave, our belongings—clothing, weapons, food supply—all have been coated with a thick layer of ice that was not there before. Would our own bodies be in the same condition if it wasn’t for the heat he’s generating? If he’s risking such a delicate process with me here to warm us, how low has the temperature dropped?

The more I think about it, the more I feel like something is amiss.

If my intuitions are correct, the Shen Demon must be close. Perhaps, it is already here, toying with us.

I want to talk to him and ask him all my questions, but I cannot say a word. I cannot move a muscle.

Time passes like lead as I stay pinned to him. The opposite of how it’s been flowing all this time. How long has this gone on for? How long have I been drowning in this dream, while convincing myself that I’m keeping afloat?

Pretending this is all normal. Turning my enemy’s lair into my home.

I miss my family—I miss my seniors—I even think I miss Xiao Yu! But I still haven’t wised up. The thought of escaping feels more trapping than anything.

After what seems like hours, changes start to occur. The steady rise and fall of Moyuan’s chest is replaced by a slight tremble. His energy barrier flickers a few times, taking on tears. The gaps are so minuscule, they are invisible to my eyes, but my body can feel the cold air being ushered in through them. It is so piercing, I’m gasping at it.

The extent of our situation becomes clear. I know our bodies could shut down in little to no time if we are exposed to what’s outside of his shield right now.

Is he expending too much of his energy? Or is there something else disrupting it?

My eyes glance up at him and a drop of liquid falls onto my forehead. There is a streak of red is dripping from the corner of his mouth, down to his chin. Glaring against his pale white skin.


I prop myself up immediately, and my hand reaches for his face but it is caught by him. His grip on my wrist is so strong it’s hurting me.

“I told you… not to move.”

He’s grinding out every word.

When his eyes open, I am met with a look I haven’t seen in so long, I no longer recognize it. Colder than all the ice in this cave. Sending me a threatening vibration that tells me I need to do as I’m told.

But he’s hurt.

The blood running down his chin, it’s still dripping.

I am panicking.

Is this my fault? Is it because I’ve disturbed him?

Staring at me, his face begins to twist and contort. His breathing labors. He coughs, and it’s a whole mouthful of blood that comes out. I stare in horror as it dribbles onto the fur wrapped around his chest.

In an instant, his energy barrier disappears and the cold envelops us. I can feel it to the bone. Like I’ve been dropped straight back into that icy lagoon, where everything hurts.

I start to reach for him, but his body is already collapsing against mine.

“SHIFU!” I grab his shoulders to support him. “What’s wrong?!”

He doesn’t answer me.

He’s hunched over. I can tell he’s in pain although he refuses to make a sound. Holding his face in my hands, I try to wipe off the blood around it but only end up smearing it further.

“Are you hurt?!”

He looks up at me and he’s suddenly staring so intensely, I find it disorienting.

“What do I do?! I need you to tell me! Shifu!”

Still, no answer. We are both shivering violently. Holding him, I pull him close to my chest, but it is as though I’ve pushed the wrong button, his body jerks and he’s shoving me away like I’m the devil himself.




I stare at him, in so much shock, my skull feels like it’s been hollowed out.

And he’s eyeing me back with a look of repulsion. “Seventeenth, do as I say!”

Struggling to rise to his feet, he teeters, about to topple over, and walks in the opposite direction of me. My instincts are petitioning me to go after him but I keep myself planted on the ground. He balances just well enough to sit himself down a few yards away. His eyes shoot back at me, glaring, again cautioning me to heed his words.

I swallow. What exactly is going on? Why is he not letting me be close to him? Haven’t we been stuck together like two wet leaves this whole time?

Moyuan clutches his head in his hands and stares in agony at the floor before letting out a groan. His lips are mumbling something incoherent.

The sight frightens me.

I have to do something. I can’t sit here and watch him like this. Slowly, I try to approach, as to not startle him. His eyes are pressed tight together now, so he can’t see me. My dread and apprehension grows with each step. Will he lash out again? No matter. I cannot leave him like this.

I arrive and crouch down beside him.

“… Shifu…?”

His eyelids flip open. I wait for him to start yelling at me again, telling me to go away any second now, but instead, he’s cuffing both my wrists with his hands and pulling me toward him with so much blunt force that I shriek.


I crumple on top of him and feel myself being flipped over so fast, everything is a blur. He’s brutally pressing me onto the ground.

I’m scared. Out of my senses.

Blood smeared on his face, eyes bloodshot, he hovers over me. The eyes staring down at me now look like they belong to another person.

This isn’t my Master.

It can’t be him.

A deranged smile lines his lips as he leans down on me. Until his breath is crawling on my neck and I feel his hands reaching to unravel the sheets of fur covering me.

“Didn’t I tell you to stay away?”

I think my Father was right.

Maybe he had already foreseen this.

That one day I would be walking into the beast’s cave. Asking to be devoured.

Chapter 13

End Notes:

[1] Fūrén (夫人) - Term used to address married women, or one’s wife.
[2] Sānge (三哥) - Third (Sān) brother (ge).